See if this sounds familiar. You gobbled down your lunch while scrolling through social media or watching your favorite show, and now you feel bloated and unsure of what your food even tasted like. Or maybe you’re feeling guilty about what you ate. These behaviors and mindsets contrast with mindful eating, which means using all your physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy the food choices you make without judgement. It stems from the broader philosophy of mindfulness, a widespread, centuries-old practice used in many religions. Mindfulness is an intentional focus on one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment.
While experts caution that mindful eating isn’t a cure-all for food- or health-related issues, small studies have suggested some benefits of the practice, largely based on its meditative aspects and abilities to help people distinguish physical hunger cues from emotional hunger. Some people have experienced weight loss or stability, anxiety and stress reduction, normalized eating habits, and relief from irritable bowel syndrome and gastrointestinal symptoms. If you want to try mindful eating, here’s what else you should know about getting started and potential hurdles.
Practicing Mindful Eating
The goal of mindful eating is to become more in tune with all your senses and thoughts during your eating experiences without distraction. Experts suggest cutting any mealtime distractions first. If you’re used to using your phone, watching television, or reading while eating, try mindful eating one day out of the week then build up from there. If you feel impatient or the urge to grab your phone while eating, that’s okay. Just notice those feelings, take a few deep breaths, and return your attention to your meal.
Expressing gratitude is both an aspect and potential outcome of mindful eating. Heighten your awareness beyond yourself while eating, try to think of where the food came from, express gratitude for the environmental elements and individuals involved in the food’s journey to your plate. Take small bites and chew thoroughly. If you eat slowly, you’re more likely to recognize when you’re satisfied and can stop eating. When sharing a meal or eating alongside others, try to set aside a few minutes at the start of the meal to express gratitude and focus on the eating experience without talking.
Many experts agree that once you start mindfully eating for a while, the mindset can apply to other areas of your life. For example, it can apply to mindful living and doing one thing at a time. So often, we’re doing so many things at the same time that we’re multitasking, and not paying attention to anything. Mindful eating can help narrow your focus and fully pay attention.